Friday, September 30, 2016

What’s It All About, Alfie? (1966)

Memories & Nostalgia

Here is the final scene, with Alfie (Alfred “Alfie” Elkins played by Michael Caine) raising the fundamental existential human question (on love), from the British film, Alfie (1966). Why do we love? Can life have meaning without love? Is there love without forgiveness?

For an additional genuine flashback memory, Celia Black records the song, “Alfie” at Studio One of Abbey Road Studios in the autumn of 1965, overseen by Black’s regular producer, George Martin. The song, written and composed by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, was released in January 1966, four months before the film’s release. It became a hit in the U.K. Dionne Warwick sings another fine version [here]; it was nominated for an academy award, but did not win.

The Autumn cycle of Jewish holidays begins with Rosh Hashanah (Sunday October 2nd at sundown). It is considered the Jewish New Year, so we say Shanah Tovah Umetukah (Hebrew: שנה טובה ומתוקה ), which translates as “A Good and Sweet Year.“ I wish this sentiment, along with good health, happiness and personal fulfillment, to all my friends, family and  faithful readers, both new and old; both young and young at heart; and both near and far. 

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Deadly Cancer And The Life-Saving Help I Got From Mesothelioma Lawyer Center

Guest Voices

Every once in a while I have a “Guest Voice” on my blog; it is usually about a subject that is typically covered on this blog. No subject is closer to my heart than cancer, and to hear the good news of someone’s recovery, especially when it is helped by kind people, as the writer of this post, Katherine Keys, explains, well, it makes my day and brings a smile to my face.When Ms. Keys contacted me, I thought that the best way of telling her story is that she tell it in the first person. This is what she has done.

by Katherine Keys

When I got the diagnosis of mesothelioma, it was a terrible shock. I was devastated. This is a type of cancer that has very poor survival rate statistically. Even for stage I mesothelioma, the median survival time is just 21 months. That meant I was supposed to have no more than two years to live, most likely. It was hard to hear, but thanks to my friends at Mesothelioma Lawyer Center, I was able to beat the odds, and it has been nine years now.

Mesothelioma: Caused by Asbestos
I was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma, a cancer that attacks the pleura, these thin layers of tissue that surrounds the lungs. When I got my diagnosis, I was only at stage I. Most people with this type of cancer are not so lucky. Most people are diagnosed in the later stages because it takes years, often decades, for the symptoms of mesothelioma to become severe enough for a person to go to the doctor. Even then, many people are misdiagnosed.

Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer, and an aggressive one. We still don’t know everything there is to know about it, but we do know that the leading risk factor is asbestos exposure. Over many years some people have inhaled the fibers from this harmful mineral. They get lodged in the lungs and pleura and cause the damage that leads to cancer. There are many more restrictions today on the use of asbestos, but this came only after thousands of people suffered from the consequences of exposure.

My Story Fighting Mesothelioma
My story starts with symptoms that seemed like the flu. I thought I had just come down with a nasty viral infection, but then the symptoms wouldn’t go away. My doctor prescribed painkillers, but they didn’t help. One day the pain in my chest and lungs was too much to bear and I ended up in the emergency room. I was just 49 years old when I received the diagnosis right there in the emergency room that I had cancer.

Given just about two years to live, I was not prepared to accept that prognosis. I felt young enough to fight this cancer, especially since it was only at stage I. That meant it had not yet spread very far, so treatments could get it under control if we were aggressive enough.

I underwent an extrapleural pneumonectomy, a radical surgical procedure that removed my entire right lung as well as the pleura surrounding it. I was left with just one lung, months of recovery to go, and radiation treatment to target any remaining cancer cells. The results were amazing; the cancer was gone. I now get checked out once a year, and every year I hear the wonderful news that the cancer has not returned. I am in pain sometimes and my one lung gives me some limitations, but I get to live and I couldn’t be happier or more grateful.

Working with Mesothelioma Lawyer Center
One thing I am especially grateful for is the help I got from Mesothelioma Lawyer Center. The kind and compassionate people there always made me feel special and provided me with the information and contacts I needed to understand my cancer and get the treatment that saved my life. They are the reason that I am here today and able to share my story of hope with others.

Mesothelioma Lawyer Center provides a wealth of information, thoroughly researched, that helps mesothelioma patients feel more confident seeing doctors and lawyers about their illnesses. They also help patients find experienced lawyers who specialize in helping asbestos victims file lawsuits and get the justice and compensation they deserve after being unknowingly exposed to this poisonous mineral. I encourage anyone who has received this terrible diagnosis to let Mesothelioma Lawer Center give them information and options. It’s what saved my life.

Katherine Keys has been fighting Mesothelioma for 9 years. When she was first diagnosed at the age of 49, doctors told her she had less than 2 years to live. Katherine refused to believe her time was limited and instead decided to fight the cancer. Katherine is convinced that it was her positive attitude and determination to win that has allowed her to survive against the odds. 

For treatment, Katherine had her right lung and the lining of the lung removed, a major surgical procedure called extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP). After several months of recovery, Katherine began radiation treatments. She had treatments five times per week for several months. Although she had been scheduled for chemotherapy treatments, she was relieved to learn that she didn’t have to have them.

Today, Katherine feels blessed to be able to spend time with her family and share her story with other people living with mesothelioma. While she has been through a lot and is still challenged by physical pain and limitations after having a lung removed, Katherine sees every day as a gift. She hopes her story brings resilience and positivity to people living with mesothelioma.

Copyright ©2016. Katherine Keys. All Rights Reserved. It is republished here with the author’s permission.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Presence Of God In Our Human Consciousness

Science & Religion

“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.”
—Psalm 19:1, KJV

“All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man's life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom. It is no mere chance that our older universities developed from clerical schools. Both churches and universities — insofar as they live up to their true function — serve the ennoblement of the individual. They seek to fulfill this great task by spreading moral and cultural understanding, renouncing the use of brute force.
The essential unity of ecclesiastical and secular institutions was lost during the 19th century, to the point of senseless hostility. Yet there was never any doubt as to the striving for culture. No one doubted the sacredness of the goal. It was the approach that was disputed.”

Albert Einstein, “Moral Decay” (1937); 
later published in Out of My Later Years (1950)

The Heavens: There might be a valid reason why so many of us enjoy looking at the night sky, enjoy images of our solar system and beyond, enjoy looking upward and outward. It’s curiosity, to be sure, but it might be much more. Carl Sagan said:  “To be certain of the existence of God and to be certain of the nonexistence of God seem to me to be the confident extremes in a subject so riddled with doubt and uncertainty as to inspire very little confidence indeed.” —Conversations with Carl Sagan (2006), Ed. Tom Head, p. 70.
Photo Credit: Beth Hoeckel
SourceThe Atlantic

One of the best novels of the 19th century (and of the modern era) is Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment (1866). It speaks about the great themes of humanity: love, forgiveness and redemption. It is by all accounts one of the greatest Christian novels ever written. It is easier to apprehend if you have read the Bible. Now, reading the Bible is not the same as understanding it, but it is a good start.

Although I am a man of Jewish upbringing, along with the Jewish Bible, I have read the complete Christian Bible a number of times. I have studied it and I am better for it. I have also read all the works by Dostoevsky, who brought his understanding of the human condition into novel form. His understanding was informed by his Christianity. Dostoevsky was not alone among 19th century Russian writers, nor among writers in general. The search for transcendence was common, and writers of all religions sought to understand the great existential question of Life, even as scientific knowledge was increasing.

But with knowledge comes sorrow, or to put it another way an understanding that knowledge is without end. It is limitless, just as is infinity. Just as humans have problems with mathematical infinity, we have problems living with the idea of infinite knowledge. Which brings me to a personal essay, by Jack Miles, in The Atlantic on why our human belief in God persists. In “Why God Will Not Die” (December 2014), Miles writes about the existential question of coping with the limits of human knowledge:
And how do we cope with that? However we cope with our ignorance, we cannot, by definition, call the coping knowledge. What do we call it? Let’s not give it a name, not even the name religion; the dilemma precedes religion and irreligion alike. But if we can concede that religion is among the ways that humankind has coped with the permanence and imponderability of human ignorance, then we may discover at least a new freedom to conduct comparisons. If we grant that we must all somehow go beyond our knowledge in order to come to enough closure to get on with the living of our lives, then how do religious modes of doing just that compare with irreligious modes? Since the challenge is practical rather than theoretical, the comparison should be of practices and outcomes rather than of theories and premises—yet the hope must be for a reasonable way of coping with the impossibility of our ever living a perfectly rational life.
As I have written before a number of times, science digs deeper and in searching for answers, raises more questions. This is particularly true in theoretical physics and in cosmology. Some very weird stuff, phenomena if you will, is going on. I am sure that scientists will eventually come up with some explanation; I am also sure that this will lead to further questions. And so on.

There remains a great divide between Science and Religion—and a lot of hostility and suspicion directed at the “other side”—but it is chiefly based on ignorance emanating from both camps. There is also uncertainty, much of it. Science’s child, Technology, offers no answer to fundamental existential or epistemological questions; it does however offer a potential but possibly necessary distraction from reality, a temporary relief from the harshness and unpredictability of life. If we are made insignificant, it might as well be a pleasurable insignificance. Even so, no one wants to believe that they are not significant. I like what Einstein said about the purpose of man’s creative forces, whether it be the arts, science or religion. It’s about being ennobled, raised up from the mire, the rubble of broken promises.
Some of us might not call ourselves “religious” and we might not regularly attend religious services, but we can still view religion in a positive way, in a positive light and see its purpose as giving some inner meaning, particularly in the midst of “trying” or “difficult” circumstances. Living a perfectly rational life is not possible, and it seems will always be so for humans. It is also true that there is (and continues to remain, even in the most hostile conditions) an abiding presence of God in our human consciousness. The ontological question of God’s existence persists. This is why Atheism is a hard position to hold; it negates the possibility of the existence of God. Doubt, encouraged by human reality, has a way of creeping in.

For more, go to [TheAtlantic]

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Picking Canada’s National Bird

Birds Of Canada

Snowy Owl: Canada does not have a national bird, and many think it’s time to have one to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation (its sesquicentennial) in 2017. Almost 50,000 Canadians voted online at the site of Canadian Geographic for their choice of a national bird, part of its National Bird Project. [Ed.I voted for the snowy owl (Bubo scandiacus).] There are now five finalists, which are in order of votes: common loon, snowy owl, gray jay/whiskey jack, Canada goose and black-capped chickadee. The final choice will be made by the Royal Canadian Geographical Society; the winner will be publicly declared by its magazine in its December 2016 issue (hitting the newsstands on November 21, 2016). It is, however, ultimately up to the Canadian Parliament, and chiefly the party in power, the Liberals led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, to decide the matter. For more, go to [CanadianGeographic].
Photo Credit: Joel Bissell; Muskegon Chronicle via AP
Source: CBC

Monday, September 26, 2016

A Spacesuit Of Many Colours

Photo Of The Week

Spacesuit “Courage”: Expedition 49 flight engineer Kate Rubins, aboard the International Space Station, wears a flight suit (called Courage) hand-painted by pediatric cancer patients as part of The Space Suit Art Project. The colourful flight suit was worn to raise awareness about childhood cancer and the value of art in bettering health and wellness. The CollectSpace website writes: “The unique garment was produced by ‘The Space Suit Art Project,’ a collaboration between MD Anderson, NASA Johnson Space Center and ILC Dover, a company that develops NASA spacesuits. […] Born out of the hospital's Arts in Medicine Program, which helps patients cope with cancer treatment through art, The Space Suit Art Project inspired the leaders within NASA’s space station program to support the effort with help from astronauts, scientists and engineers. The agency provided the patterns for the suits and collaborated with ILC Dover to assemble the garments.”
Photo Credit: NASA

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Glenn Gould: Brahms Piano Concerto No. 1 (1962)

Glann Gould plays the Brahms Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, opus 15, with the New York Philharmonic, conducted by  Leonard Bernstein on April 6, 1962.

If it seems in the opening comments, a rare event, to be sure, that Bernstein is distancing himself from Gould, in a sort of betrayal, it is not so Bernstein said, who considered Gould a close friend. In this excerpt from “Glenn Gould Variations–By Himself and His Friends” (1983), edited with an introduction by John McGreevy, Bernstein gives his explanation, which is also found on the Leonard Bernstein site (“The Truth About a Legend”):
So I went out, read these few notes, and said, “This is gonna be different, folks. And it's going to be very special. This is the Glenn Gould Brahms concerto.” Out he came, and indeed he played it exactly the way he had rehearsed it, and wonderfully too. The great miracle was that nobody left, because of course it had become such a thing to listen to. The house came down, although, if I remember correctly, it took well over an hour to play. It was very exciting. I never loved him more.
The result in the papers, especially the New York Times, was that I had betrayed my colleague. Little did they know—though I believe I did say so to the audience—that I had done this with Glenn's encouragement. They just assumed that I had sold him down the river by coming out first to disclaim his interpretation. It was, on the contrary, a way of educating the audience as part of Thursday night's procedure. All this was not only misunderstood, but repeated and repeated and multiplied exponentially by every other newspaper that wrote about it.

Then Harold Schonberg, the ex-chief critic of the Times who wrote the infamous review, wrote a Sunday piece in the form of a letter to “Dear Ossip”— Gabrilovitch, I assume. “Dear Ossip, you vill nyever guess vat last night in Carnyegie Hall hhappent!” sort of thing. The piece was based on this notion of betrayal. He has never let that notion die, and because it’s so juicy it has undergone a kind of propagation all over the world. However, the “juicy” part is what did not happen. (For me, the juicy part is what did happen.) Of course, a defense is very weak, once a legend is born. It’s rather like the Radical Chic Black Panther legend, which I can never seem to set straight. I have the feeling, even now, that trying to make this story about Glenn clear by telling the truth can’t really erase the now legendary, but false, version.
We can always try to set the record straight, never an easy task when legends of the mind take hold.

Vienna Philharmonic: Mahler Symphony No. 5 (1987)

Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 in C sharp minor is played magnificently by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra at the Alte Oper, Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany in a live performance in September 1987; Leonard Bernstein [1918–1990, born Lawrence, Massachusetts] is at the podium. This is a very emotional piece, full of feeling yet under control. This is Bernstein’s Mahler.

Mahler [1860–1911] composed the piece in 1901 and 1902 in Maiernigg, Austria, on the shores of the Wörthersee in the state of Carinthia. He conducted the first performance of the Fifth Symphony at Cologne, Germany, on October 18, 1904.

In this 1960 broadcast of the Young People’s Concerts with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, Leonard Bernstein, who did the most to make Gustav Mahler known to modern American audiences, gives an educational and entertaining exposition on Mahler. [This was broadcast on Sunday February 7, 1960, on the CBS-TV network; the program's full script, written by Bernstein himself, can be found here.]

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Microsoft Says It Will Reprogram Cancer Cells

Science Of Hope

Dr. Jasmin Fisher, senior researcher at Microsoft Research Cambridge and an associate professor (dept. of biochemistry) at University of Cambridge, said: “If we are able to control and regulate cancer then it becomes like any chronic disease and then the problem is solved.”
Photo Credit: Dr. Fisher
Source: The Telegraph

Sarah Knapton of The Telegraph writes that Microsoft Research in Cambridge (England) views cancer as a programming issue and vows to reprogram cancer cells within 10 years, making cancer, at worst, another chronic disease that must be managed. While this is not the same as claiming a cure, it would be a breakthrough in cancer research and treatment.

In “Microsoft will ‘solve’ cancer within 10 years by ‘reprogramming’ diseased cells” (September 20, 2016), Knapton writes:
Dr Jasmin Fisher, senior researcher and an associate professor at Cambridge University, said: “If we are able to control and regulate cancer then it becomes like any chronic disease and then the problem is solved.”
“I think for some of the cancers five years, but definitely within a decade. Then we will probably have a century free of cancer."
There are issues related to quality of life if cancer patients have cancer as a chronic disease, but this is still better than the alternative. So, I consider this a wonderful medical initiative, and I wish the researchers the best of luck and encouragement. They are doing a wonderful thing for humanity.

For more, go to [The Telegraph]

Friday, September 23, 2016

Collecting Comic Books & Sports Cards

Memories & Nostalgia

Comic Books (1960s): Action Comics Vol 1: No, 321 (February 1965). This came out in the middle of what is called the Silver Age (1956–1972) of comic books. It is more than likely that I bought this issue for 12 cents, since in the 1960s, I bought comic books weekly at the corner kiosk not far from my house and Action Comics and Superman was always on top of my list. By the time I donated my sizable collection in 1982, I had close to 500 comic books. No one I knew then viewed comic books as collectibles potentially worth a lot more than we paid for them.
Image Credit & Source: DC-Wikia

Both superheroes and sports heroes (or athletes) had a prominent place in my life, particularly during my adolescent years, while growing up in the 1960s and ’70s. I have written previously on why superheroes are important for our society. In the article (“Why We Need Superheroes;” February 4, 2011), I then wrote: 
A Superhero is the Universal Man, not bound by nation or state, but by the universal principles, similar to those enshrined on the United Nations Charter. The Superhero is the Modern morality play, where Everyman is replaced by a unique individual who has special powers, super powers that are a testament to his virtues of good[ness], honesty and justice. He is often the caped crime-fighter, whose true identity is kept secret. His day job is far different than his evening crime-fighting duties, sometimes diametrically opposed (a la Clark Kent and Superman)
Like many, Superman was my favourite superhero, having all the virtues that one should have. My view on superheroes has remained the same, although I no longer collect comic books. 

Sports heroes, on the other hand, are humans of exceptional athletic ability. We watch them, and marvel at their abilities. Those of us who have lesser abilities wish we were able to do the things they can do with a ball, a puck, a bat, a stick, a racquet, or with an arm or a leg or a head. 

In another post, I wrote about how sports fans still want sporting competitions to be fair. In the article (“The Good Sport;” December 10, 2010), I then said:
Mr. Lapham, the noted writer and former long-time editor of Harper's Magazine, explains in his poetic fashion why we delight in sport. The battle. The competition. The heroic efforts. All of this is taking place in a controlled fashion. But we also wants fairness and integrity. An unfair contest casts doubt on the validity of the results and destroys the illusion of innocence. This makes the playing field uneven and tarnishes the game.
Sports is now viewed as entertainment, and some of us old-timers can bemoan this fact, since money can corrupt athletes, as so many stories in the media report. Athletes are not superheroes, but, rather, humans with exceptional athletic abilities, and not necessarily having the moral or ethical standards to match. Yet, one of my sports heroes was Jean Beliveau [1931–2014], a professional hockey player (1950–71) with the Montreal Canadiens who was without a doubt up to the task. There were a number of such examples then in professional sports.

Perhaps it is unrealistic to expect athletes today to be viewed as role models. It might be that money has changed sports, destroying any and all illusions of innocence. In so many cases, the athletes are young and are untested and ungrounded in the area of moral decision-making; thus, they get caught up in the unbounded and unchecked excitement of the high life that money and fame can purchase. Yet the best of the athletes in all professional sports know how to play within the boundaries of legal competition. 

This can still be “magic.”

Trading Cards: Some of the hockey and baseball trading cards in my collection: from the late 1960s to the early 1970s still in my possession. None are in vintage condition, which would make them collectibles. No one I knew viewed them as anything other than trading cards. Cards came in packs of 10 and cost a dime per pack; it came with a flat rectangular piece of pink gum.
Photo Credit & Source: ©Perry J. Greenbaum, 2016

Thursday, September 22, 2016

A Late Summer September Day At Edwards Gardens (2016)

Urban Nature

Last Sunday, we went to Edwards Gardens, our last trip of the summer to the urban oasis in Toronto. It was a warm, pleasant day (25°C, or 78°F). During our sojourns to the gardens, we tend to meet people, other nature lovers; this time it was an Hasidic family from Monsey, NY, who were visiting our city for a family engagement party. We met at the pond, while we were admiring the ducks, including the blue-winged teal (Anas discors), pictured above.

We also saw a few chipmunks (Tamias) and squirrels (Sciuridae), a blue jay (Cyanocitta cristata) and a monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus), a more common occurrence than in the last few years. We admired the bee hotel and its inhabitants, a friend of humanity. So, summer ends, as it does every year. Today at 10:21 a.m. EDT, or 14:21 UTC begins the season of Autumn or Fall, as it is often called in North America. We can expect beautiful fall foliage and bright reds, golds and yellows to dominate the skyline for a brief period.

All Photos: ©Perry J. Greenbaum, 2016

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

A 3D Printed Dress @ NY Fashion Week (2016): ‘Oscillations’

New Fashion Fabric

Oscillations:  A 3D printed dress made its debut at New York Fashion Week (2016); made by threeASFOUR, it is part of its Quantum Vibrations collection and is called “Oscillations.” Luke Dormehl of Digital Trends writes about it: “The dress itself was created in collaboration with regular threeASFOUR partner designer Travis Fitch, along with 3D-printing company Stratasys. It is composed of 30 separate multi-material, multi-color 3D-printed parts, assembled from 270 design files.”.
Photo Credit: Jan Klier

I do like the colour and the geometric patterns, which provide the dress a fractal feel. Along with the mathematical precision, both the blue colour and the shape are aesthetically pleasing to the eye. This is really avant-garde fashion, in the truest sense of the word, and brings dress-making into another era, another realm, if you will. Nicely done. 

For now, such dresses as “Oscillations” are show-pieces, part of haute couture fashion shows and not hanging in people's closets. 3D-printed clothes will, however, eventually make its way to store shelves, but it will take a few years. A more interesting future is where 3D printers will complement or replace sewing machines, and where people will make their own 3D printed clothes at home. This, however, would require the printing of natural fibres like cotton, which currently is not possible with this technology

Below is another photo showing the dress in sharper and clearer detail.

Photo Credit: Tess

Monday, September 19, 2016

Designing A Beautiful Sleek Future

Photo Of The Week

Téléavia P111, a portable television set, 1963. This photo is from Roger Tallon’s [born in Paris, France; 1929–2011] archives. A retrospective of Roger Tallon is currently underway at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, in Paris, which looks at the collected work (spanning six decades) of one of industry’s best designers. Tallon appreciated the attributes of form and function while incorporating the aesthetics of beauty—the opposite of, e.g., brutalist architecture that was also prevalent during, and in some cases dominated, this period. Aesthetica writesDesign in Motion is an explorative event that charts over six decades of acclaimed contributions to the world of design, and the intriguing imagination that fuelled them. With industry at the centre of his creations, Tallon created a legacy for himself with new and innovative ways to construct both functional and aesthetically-considered technology. For example, he is perhaps best known for the sleek silhouette of France’s high speed train, Train a Grand Vitesse.” Roger Tallon: Design in Motion runs until January 8, 2017. For more, go to [Musee des Arts Decoratifs].
Photo Credit: © ADAGP, Paris / photo: Les Arts Décoratifs, Paris

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Cat Stevens: Wild World (1976)

Cat Stevens sings “Wild World,” from his concert at William and Mary College in Williamsburg, Virginia. on February 22, 1976, which is part of the 1976 Majikat  Earth Tour. Let’s go further back and hear the Cat sing it on the BBC in 1970 [here]. Now we can move forward to hearing Yusuf singing it in 2011 [here]. There is something to be said about all of the versions. Wild World, the third track on the 1970 album Tea for Tllerman, is primarily about the sadness of departures of the romantic kind; it is also about the ways of the world. (It’s hard to get by just upon a smile). This simple line, a piece of advice, suggests much about navigating the world, both then and now and how this aspect of human relationships has not changed much.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Wave Dynamics Affects The Health Of Coral Reefs

World’s Oceans

Palmyra Atoll:  A black tip shark swims above a shallow reef of primarily dead coral skeletons at Palmyra Atoll, an unoccupied territory (except by scientists temporarily) of 2-square-kilometres (4.6 sq mi) in the equatorial North Pacific, lying about 1,000 miles due south of Hawaii and approximately half way between the Hawaiian Islands and American Samoa. Research conducted by Stanford scientists at this atoll, and subsequently published in Limnology and Oceanography, offers some new insight into how climate change can affect reefs. The research considers the question of why some coral reefs do better than others. It depends on wave mechanics and flow, which can actually lower the water temperature locally, allowing such coral reefs to thrive.  An article, by Elizabeth Svoboda, in says: “The reefs that did best over time – those showing the highest level of live coral cover – were the ones that received an ample flow of cooler water from the ocean further offshore. The team found that both waves and tides in nearby waters drive the flow rate around these high-performing reefs, with waves being the most significant factor.”
Photo Credit: Brian Zgliczynski

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Boy’s Clubhouse

Memories & Nostalgia

1960s-Style Clubhouse: It was a place where boys made close connections, albeit not of the kind that uses electronic media or other communications devices, but of the kind that involved close proximity and nearness, It was far more simpler and far more cheaper to do. Karen Gennari writes (“Kids’ Clubhouses and Hideouts—Part 1: 1950’s & 1960’s”; June 21, 2015) on her site, Toys of Childhood Past: “Having missed my opportunity to build a real clubhouse in my youth, I drew my own vision of what a typical 1950’s/60’s clubhouse looked like. This imaginary hideout had walls of plywood sheets, a door made from furring strips, and a corrugated tin roof. Boys’ domiciles commonly had signs reading ‘KEEP OUT!’or ‘NO GIRLS ALLOWED.’ Buy yourself a bottle of chocolate pop for a nickel and head off to your clubhouse to trade baseball cards with the boys or leaf through the latest Seventeen Magazine with the girls.”
Image Credit: Doug Pifer; Directions ’70 Magazine
In the mid-1960s, my brothers and I built a clubhouse beneath our balcony (or gallery, as it was then called in Montreal). We “borrowed” materials (mostly old boards and nails) and tools (hammer and hand saw) from our father’s carpentry shop, which was in the basement of our house. In our young mind’s eye, the clubhouse was supposed to be our sanctuary, our place away from others, including parents. It was also a place where the unspoken rule was, “No Girls Allowed.” It was a place where we traded cards, read comic books, looked at old National Geographic magazines, ate chips and chewed gum and just talked about things that young boys then talked about. If it all sounds silly and boring today, as it does to my two boys, it was not for us. The clubhouse lasted a few days; our father did not like the crude addition to the house and tore it down. I was upset for a day or so, until a friend found another spot to build a clubhouse, which lasted for a longer time, that is, until we outgrew our interest in such things.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

H.G. Wells: His Science (Fiction) Is Relevant & Hopeful

Public Education

“The past is but the beginning of a beginning,
and all that is or has been is but the twilight of the dawn.”
H.G. Wells, The Discovery of the Future (1901)

Fiction & Fantasy: An illustration for The War of the Worlds drawn by Henrique Alvim Corrêa (top) and a still from the 1936 film adaptation of The Shape of Things to Come.
Image Credit & Source: Nature
An article, by Simon J. James, in Nature, looks at how H.G. Wells [1866–1946; born Herbert George Wells in Bromley, Kent County, England], one of the most noted science-fiction writers, made science accessible to the masses—something that today's scientists might wish to emulate. Moreover, it was not only a matter of educating the public, but also of giving us a vision of what technology can do, both in the sense of engendering (in the hands of humans) both good and evil.

Wells, a prolific writer (having published more than 100 books), had a burning desire to use his writing to make the world a better place. In many ways, Wells was what today would be referred to as a public intellectual, although he liked to refer to himself as “a journalist.” In “The Worlds of H.G. Wells,” (September 7, 2016), James writes:
Behind Wells’s enormous output was a desire to use writing to make the world better — by projecting either a utopian vision of a perfected future, or dystopias revealing how the lessons of his work went unheeded.
Among his extraordinary achievements, Wells was one of the earliest major English writers to be a trained scientist. The word ‘scientist’ had been coined by historian William Whewell just 33 years before Wells’s birth. Wells — the child of servants-turned-shopkeepers — escaped apprenticeships in drapers’ shops to become a pupil-teacher at Midhurst Grammar School in the south of England. A scholarship propelled him to what is now Imperial College London, where he studied biology under champion of Darwinism T. H. Huxley, graduating in 1890. He never practised as a scientist; nor did he see himself as an ‘artist’, preferring ‘journalist’, particularly later in his career, when politics became more important in his writing.
Wells’s brilliance as a communicator of science drew him to many friendships with scientists — not least Richard Gregory. The astronomer, who was at university with Wells, was Nature‘s second editor. Wells was to publish 25 pieces in the journal over 50 years, inspiring and provoking scores of contemporary thinkers into contributing a rolling tide of correspondence, book reviews, notices and other commentary on his output.
Wells was also publishing inspired books at a furious pace. His first were the scientific textbooks Honours Physiography and Text-book of Biology (both 1893); the latter went into many editions. The topics rapidly ramified. The year 1895 alone saw a short-story collection (The Stolen Bacillus and Other Incidents), a fantastic romance in which an angel falls to Earth (The Wonderful Visit) and a volume of essays, as well as his first full-length work of fiction, The Time Machine. That book, with Wells’s other late-1890s ‘scientific romances’ The Island of Doctor Moreau, The War of the Worlds and The Invisible Man, would set the bar for science fiction. They are also among a number of books by Wells that had an impact on science itself.
So much so that Wells’ name is synonymous with the best science fiction, the kind where science informs the fiction, where readers can imagine this taking place in some foreseeable future. Wells wrote his most-popular fiction at a time when there was great faith both in science and in human potential. Even so, Wells was prescient about the dangers that both presented to humanity, if used unwisely.

It would take another few decades for another popular series to take hold of the human imagination: “Star Trek,” which this year celebrates its 50th year, also has a universal moral message steeped in hope that man can survive its mistakes and its bad, sometimes, immoral decisions. The best writers understand that humans like to believe that a positive future is possible while also sensing that this is only possible if we humans make the best-possible moral choices—not an easy task by any means, but worth investigating.

For more, go to [Nature]

Monday, September 12, 2016

Loss Of Connection

Photo of the Week

Playing The Game:Chess” by Lorna Simpson: This 2013 image is from an HD video installation with three projections. While this particular still image does not immediately bring to mind Simpson’s current work, it’s there in the making. The freedom to choose is illusory; we have the freedom to choose the same objects and “intellectual property” as everyone else—a direct result of the combined might and power of capitalism and globalization. It might be worth a visit to the gallery to see how this led to the the latest installation, which captures so much of what is happening today to fragment society, the grays, blacks and whites becoming a dominant colors, society, in effect, stripped of all color and natural beauty. The black-and-white chessboard thus becomes representative of this state of human affairs. Muted comes to mind. Aesthetica writes: “Enumerated (2016) featured in her upcoming exhibition, rises 12 feet high, consisting of hundreds of images of nails clustered in groups of five. Setting quite a hushed and poetic tone to the exhibition, Enumerated resemble the tally marks scratched onto prison walls as a record of days in captivity. Simpson leaves us to address the fragments in today’s political and social climate, through a series of paintings, lining a gallery wall. Almost as if the pages of Ebony magazine have been washed of all advertisement and editorial content, these features are skewed into a single motif or phrase for our reflection, grouped together by a gradient background with subtle tones of blacks, greys and white.” Lorna Simpson runs until October 22nd at Salon 94 Bowery in New York City. For more, go to [Salon94].
Photo Credit: Lorna Simpson, 2013
Source: Aesthetica

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Culture Club: Karma Chameleon (1983)

Boy George (born George Alan O’Dowd; June 14, 1961), the lead singer of Culture Club, a British band, performs “Karma Chameleon,” the first song on the album, Colour by Numbers, released on October 1983. This video was filmed at Desborough Island, a large artificially created island on the River Thames near Surrey, England. This fits the genre of blue-eyed soul and is part of what is called British New Romanticism [1979–1981].

The song speaks about individual alienation in the face of totalitarian conformity common to the human race and the negative consequences of it. The song remains relevant today with societal fragmentation, the lack of social harmony and the breakdown of social cohesion so prevalent in so many nations around the globe. Nuance and irony have become less recognizable; as has humor and the pure joy of laughter. It has often been replaced by fear, anger and resentment, leading to greater insecurity.

Even so, there continues to be so much talk about security and justice and so little about mercy and morality. Although this might seem counter-intuitive, there is the need for forgiveness, both in the giving and the receiving. Can any of us say with certainty and candor that they have no regrets? Human relations and human activity always leads to such feelings.  I have my own regrets; humans are not machines bereft of emotions. Admitting this is never easy. Remember: a society without mercy or forgiveness can never be just. It can only be self-righteous and cruel.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Juno’s Jupiter Flyby Photos (2016)

Planetary Space

Jupiter’s North Pole: NASA’s Juno spacecraft captured this view as it closed in on Jupiter’s north pole, about two hours before closest approach on 27 August.
Source: Cosmos

Aarticle in Cosmos magazine shows photos of the north and south poles of Jupiter, taken from the first scientific flyby of the Juno probe. The Juno probe, solar powered, launched by NASA on August 5, 2011, travelled 2.8 billion kilometers (18.7 astronomical units; 1.74 billion miles) to reach Jupiter on July 4, 2016. Part of its planned mission is to orbit the planet 37 times over the next 20 months, doing so via an elliptical polar orbit 5,000 kilometres (approx 3,100 miles) above the planet's gaseous surface, composed primarily of hydrogen and helium.

During this time, it will take a number of photos similar to this one, but its chief purpose is scientific in nature—to find out more about the fifth planet from the sun, the largest in our solar system. While telescopes can and do reveal general aspects of a planet, being up close reveals more particulars, as the Juno probe will likely do. The NASA Science Missions site puts it this way:

The primary scientific goal of the Juno mission is to significantly improve our understanding of the formation, evolution and structure of Jupiter. Concealed beneath a dense cover of clouds, Jupiter, the archetypical "Giant Planet," safeguards secrets to the fundamental processes underlying the early formation of our solar system. Present theories of the origin and early evolution of our solar system are currently at an impasse. Juno will provide answers to critical science questions about Jupiter, as well as key information that will dramatically enhance present theories about the early formation of our own solar system.
Whether this probe will give definitive answers is an open question. I suspect that in answering some questions (e.g., the planets structure and composition), it will lead to more questions, some bordering on the realm of science fiction. Then again, all good science has within it speculation and the use of imagination. Some contend that if we can imagine it, then it must be a reality somewhere for someone.

Jupiter’s South Pole: This infrared image gives an unprecedented view of the southern aurora of Jupiter, as captured by NASA's Juno spacecraft on 27 August.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Saturday Afternoon Movies At The Rialto

Memories & Nostalgia

Rialto Theatre: The Government of Canada writes on its site: “The Rialto Theatre National Historic Site of Canada, located on du Parc Avenue in Montréal’s Outremont neighbourhood, is an early 20th-century movie theatre designed in the Beaux-Arts style. Distinguished by its monumental columned façade, and inspired by the Paris Opéra, the five-storey theatre also features a richly decorated neo-Baroque interior, designed by the famed theatre designer, Emmanuel Briffa. Official recognition consists of the building on the legal property on which it sat at the time of recognition.”
Photo Credit: Jean Gagnon, 2011 
Source: Wikipedia

My brothers and I used to go to the Rialto Theatre (or Cinéma Rialto at 5723 avenue du Parc, Montréalevery Saturday afternoon to watch films; the admission was 50 cents. It was and remains on avenue du Parc down the street from where we resided, but it no longer shows movies.  It is now a venue for live entertainment.

This building, completed in December 1924 with a Beaux-Arts façade and a neo-baroque interior—inspired by the Paris Opera—was designated, in 1993, as a National Historic Site of Canada. It is important to note that before 1961, children under the age of 16 were not allowed to enter cinemas, a result of the tragic fire at the Laurier Palace Theatre (at 3215 Saint Catherine Street East) on January 9, 1927, which killed 78 children.

By the time we went to the movies (circa 1967), the law had changed. Even so, my mother used to mention the fire on numerous occasions, usually before we went to the movies. But we were living in modern times and being young never thought of such “dangers.”

Opening Night: The Rialto site writes: “The Rialto on a wintry day just before its opening on 27 December 1924. The ‘torch’ and the building-long iron-and-glass canopy are in place, and the ads for the opening movie, In Every Woman’s Life, are in the panels beside the doors. A florist, dress shop and tobacconist are among the stores already open.”
Photo Credit & Source: The Rialto

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Cat Stevens: Father and Son (1970)

Cat Stevens, a British singer, performs “Father and Son” shortly after the song’s release in 1970. Stevens, [born Steven Demetre GeorgiouJuly 21, 1948, London, England] adopted Cat Stevens as his stage name early in in his career (circa 1966) and legally changed his name to Yusuf Islam after his conversion to Islam in December 1977. The song is the second to last track on his fourth studio album, Tea for Tillerman, released on November 23, 1970. The song is a dialogue in music between a son wanting to leave home and his father who questions why he must do so at this time. There is a simplicity in the song, like many of Cat Stevens' music that belies its spiritual transcendence, in its search for universal love and truth—no easy matter.

Monday, September 5, 2016

The Fruits Of War

Photo Of the Week

The Trojan Women: War brings its own momentum, its own rationality and its own justification, which often has little to do with justice; to the victors go the spoils, which include human slaves and the collective resources of the land that they have invaded. It also includes oppression and brutality and the humiliation of life under occupation. Such forms the narrative of human history, including the conflicts of recent and modern history, always making it a subject ripe for the stage. (L to R): Clea DeCrane, Rebeca Rad, Jenny Jarnagin, DeAnna Supplee, Chun Cho and Amanda Centeno in “The Trojan Women” at the Flea Theater in New York City. In The New York Times Review (“The Trojan Women’ Laments War and Bloodshed, From a Distance;” September 1, 2016), Laura Collins-Huhes writes: “Full of blame and bloodshed, Euripides’ ‘The Trojan Women’ is a lamentation of war from 415 B.C., when Athens was engaging in one devastating military conflict after another. Ellen McLaughlin’s lucid adaptation, receiving its belated New York premiere at the Flea Theater, had a contemporary impetus, too, when Ms. McLaughlin wrote it two decades ago: the Bosnian War.” The play runs to September 26th. For more, go to [NYT].
Photo Credit: Allison Stock
Source: NYT

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Journey: Don’t Stop Believin’ (1981)

Journey, the American rock group fronted by Steve Perry, perform “Don’t Stop Believin’,” a classic rock song of the 1980s and one that still retains popularity today, if only for the sentiments expressed. Belief and dreams of a better life are axiomatic to the human condition and are a fundamental part of youth. The song, a rock anthem, is the lead song on the band's seventh studio album, Escape, which was released on July 31, 1981. The song was written by Jonathan Cain (keyboards and background vocals), Steve Perry (lead vocals) and Neal Schon (lead and rhythm guitars and background vocals). Rounding out the band is Ross Valory (bass guitar and background vocals) and Steve Smith (drums and percussion). The band was formed in San Francisco in 1973 with Perry joining the band a few years later, making his public debut in San Francisco on October 28, 1977. The band is still active today with Arnel Pineda as lead singer.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Finding The Balance Between Competitiveness & Cooperation

Intra-Species Relationships

Environmental Conditioning: Species shape their response to sharing resources depending on whether they find themselves in a sparse or surplus environment. Jennifer Chu of MIT News Office writes: “Clownfish fight off predators of anemones that in turn provide habitats for the clownfish, an example of mutualism. But mutualistic relationships aren’t always set in stone; depending on environmental conditions, once-simpatico species can become competitors.”
Photo Credit & Source: MIT News

An article, by Jennifer Chu, of MIT News Office writes of an interesting study that shows that a species of yeast (of two different strains) were more co-operative when resources were thin than when they were in abundance. The reasons are not easily understood, considering that one could easily expect the opposite response. It does present an interesting finding when looking at and examining intra-species relationships.

In “A mutual breakdown” (August 24, 2016), Chu writes:
Studying two similar strains of yeast, the researchers found that this deterioration in relations is marked by multiple transitions in the species’ degree of codependence. What’s more, such mutualistic relations tend to break down in more “benign” environments, such as nutrient-rich conditions, in which each species isn’t required to rely solely on the other to survive.
In laboratory experiments, Gore and his colleagues studied the interactions between normally mutualistic strains of yeast that cross-feed, each producing a needed amino acid for the other.
The researchers supplied gradually increasing amounts of nutrients to the yeast and observed population changes in strains grown both together and apart. They found that in nutrient-poor conditions, both strains did better together than they did alone, forming more mutualistic relationships in which each strain depended heavily on the other. The opposite was true in conditions with more plentiful nutrients: The strains seemed to do worse together, with one dominating strain that grew in size while the other dwindled and eventually collapsed.
While this study has not been extrapolated to other species, notably high form ones—like humans or other primates—or to inter-species relationships in terms of resource allocation, it does raise interesting questions on how better social and economic conditions might not always lead to more co-operation. The follow-through question is, Why this is so? And under what conditions do humans feel compelled to share their resources?

It takes something more, an understanding and appreciation of the value of sharing resources—an enlightened mind and an open heart—to bring this about in a meaningful and significant way. Intelligence alone or the employment of a mind solely dedicated to rationalism will not suffice. It might actually work against it, giving justification for selfishness.

For more, go to [MITNews]

Friday, September 2, 2016

Forget ‘The Strap’

Memories & Nostalgia

The Strap: This is a photo of a typical strap used in Canadian schools, black in colour and made from three-ply industrial transmission belting. Thankfully and mercifully, it is no longer used as a means of corporal punishment and discipline in Canadian schools, but it has a long history, writes the Canadian Education Association (CEA) on its website: “The long historical debate over the physical discipline and punishment of children arose from different perspectives on appropriate forms of child rearing and pedagogy. At one end of the spectrum were adults and educators who believed that social order, good behaviour, and moral development required the regular use of disciplinary instruments such as the rod and the strap. At the other end were those who felt that physical discipline constituted, or would lead to, the abuse of children. The Toronto Board of Education pioneered the abolition of corporal punishment in 1971. In most other Canadian jurisdictions, the strap continued to be an important instrument in the teacher’s disciplinary arsenal until the 1990s. It was not until 2004 that the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that corporal punishment was an unreasonable application of force in the maintenance of classroom discipline.”
Photo Credit & Source: CBC News

Not all my memories can be classified as good or pleasant; some are downright unpleasant. Now that school is about to begin for my two boys, I would like to share a story. When I was in elementary school in Montreal (1963–70), corporal punishment was allowed, which included the use of the strap for some infractions. This was usually given by the principal, and sometimes by the vice-principal. It was humiliating, similar to being placed in the corner, which was also done, as was being smacked on the hands by a teacher’s ruler. Ouch!

I remember an incident in Grade 6 when three of us were throwing snowballs in the schoolyard during lunch-time; only one person was caught and he was summarily given the strap. Of course, if he was guilty of this infraction of school rules, so was I. How humiliating it was to get called in to the principals’s office and to receive a few (3–5) whacks on each hand, palms out; and then to return to your class with all your class-mates knowing what had happened. The mental and emotional anguish matches the physical pain. Truly, I felt horrible and guilty for quite a while.

But the guilt of punishment, as powerful as it was or might be, is based on an archaic rule that had nothing to do with learning and education or, even, making compliant and good citizens. It was about not breaking any school rules. (It seemed that there were many such possible infractions in addition to throwing snowballs, including talking in line, running in the hallways, and chewing gum, etc.) Some people today say that such “discipline” ought to be brought back and normalized.

I disagree. We now know better on the cruelty of corporal punishment and how the use of fear, in all of its forms, is not the best motivation for learning or, for that matter, teaching. The use of the strap was eventually banned in Canada (2004) and in most industrialized nations, seeing it as cruel and unusual punishment. I agree, even though it should have come sooner. (It was abolished in Toronto's school much earlier: in 1971. Here is a link to the history of corporal punishment in Canadian schools, the use of “the strap” and the progressive conditions—including the mental thought processes—that led to its outright ban.)

The use of corporal punishment in schools, however, is still allowed in 19 U.S. states.